The Chinese classic, The Book of Change, illustrates that change is an eternal truth for human existence, no matter if we admit it or not. But we as humans have the capacity to direct this change in a positive way, following the mandate of DAO. The evolving Sino-American relationship perfectly reflects this.
During President Donald Trump’s visit to China yesterday on November 9th, President Xi Jinping said that the “Pacific Ocean is big enough for us to co-exist”. This expression indicates not only a grand vision, but also a different kind of leader and a heart that bemoans the state of the world and shows concern for the fate of humankind. Behind this vision, we can see the key spiritual concept in Chinese culture: harmony.
Trump’s first stop in China was the Forbidden City, one of the most important Chinese Cultural Relics formerly owned by the royal family. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump were hosted by President Xi, and first lady Peng Liyuan for tea. Afterwards, they walked along the museum’s central axis, which is also the axial line of Beijing, and visited three main halls of the Forbidden City: the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the biggest and most important piece of architecture in the Forbidden City; the Hall of Central Harmony; and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. Clearly, such a thoughtful arrangement means that to understand and agree on this concept of 和, is the starting point for further bilateral dialogue.
Based on this core humanistic spirit, it was not surprising that 34 cooperation documents between Chinese and US companies for deep collaboration in all fields were signed, worth $253.5 billion. It shows that when taking harmony as an essential emphasis in bilateral relations (as well as multilateral relations), and abandoning the zero-sum game approach, results that promise more success for all parties will naturally unfold.
In his book, World Order (2015), Henry Kissinger described the significant differences between the US and China, and also stated the critical importance for these two countries to collaborate in building the new world order. Since 1972, the Sino-US relationship has recovered, but not without many ups and downs. Admittedly, the historical, cultural, political, and economic differences – not to mention competition – still exist. However, this does not mean it will influence collaboration between the world’s two biggest powers, as long as leaders believe in dialogue as the key approach for transformation, and for solving the crises facing humanity. As Trump put it, “I look forward to building an even stronger relationship between our two countries and even closer friendships between the people of our two countries”. Once again, the Chinese ancient wisdom to “keep harmony in diversity and seek common points while reserving difference” (和而不同，求同存异）works well in developing the relationships between leading countries in this currently disordered world.
Seeking commonalities is vital for fostering a global community of common destiny. Here, we understand such common points include concrete win-win collaborations, inclusive development, and the flourishing of humanity. Despite criticisms against them in other contexts, during their meetings in Beijing the two leaders demonstrated a strong willingness and openness to lead and to show the world that all collaborations will go beyond China and the US, benefitting the world as a whole, from bilateral to multilateral, in all dimensions. As Trump promised, “a great responsibility has been placed on our shoulders. It is truly a great responsibility. And I hope we can rise to the occasion and help our countries and our citizens reach their highest destinies and their fullest potentials. I look forward to working for that goal and to pursuing fair, reciprocal, and lasting engagement”.
While conflicts, wars, and terrorist attacks still persist in many parts of this disarrayed world, we hope that the promises made by great leaders will in fact manifest, and in turn shed light on the importance of dialogue in reorienting the direction of humanity. We can then move towards a more inclusive global society, while respecting our differences and valuing each culture’s uniqueness. In President Xi’s words, “what we are doing is not angling for compliments, we would be content that our integrity will fill the universe”.